How to improve reviewer diversity: a toolkit for editors (part II)
23 September 2021
By Katie Eve, Bahar Mehmani, PhD, Kate Wilson
Tips and tricks on increasing I&D in your referee pool
© istockphoto.com/PeterPencilIn our miniseries so far, we have discussed the importance of inclusion & diversity (I&D), highlighted the work that still needs to be done to diversify the peer reviewer pool, and shared examples of the actions being taken by publishers, editors and reviewers themselves. Today we continue our deep dive into the role editors play and offer insights and best practice gleaned through editor interviews.
Think beyond the reference tools
Though employing an array of reviewer finding tools at the point of seeking candidates for a particular paper is a good way to gradually expand a journal’s reviewer pool, it is also valuable to consider other opportunities to diversify your referee selection. You may wish to consider the following suggestions:
Sometimes referees collaborate with members of their research groups to produce reviewer reports, or you may even wish to encourage your reviewers to co-review with younger, talented members from their network. Editorial Manager then allows referees to list their co-reviewers' names and contributions upon submitting their reports in the system. Liaise with your publishing contact for more information about this feature.
At conferences, note the names of good speakers and poster presenters, especially when they are from groups currently underrepresented in your journal.
Regional societies may be a source of candidates from outside the journal’s existing network.
Use any available opportunities to educate the next generation of reviewers by means of
peer-review training sessions(opens in new tab/window) at conferences and institution visits, especially when they take place in the Global South or areas under-represented in your referee pool. Afterwards, you can invite participants to register their interest in reviewing for your journal in Reviewer Hub(opens in new tab/window).
In some communities, lists of diverse candidates may even exist, such as https://anneslist.net(opens in new tab/window) which highlights women neuroscientists: spend a while researching these and use them to expand your pool.
This might sound like a large undertaking, but you don’t need to bear the responsibility alone. Team up with any sister journals in your field, especially those in different regions, and/or enlist the help of your Editorial Board to recommend diverse reviewers to add to your journal’s pool.
Make sure your Editorial Board is diverse
If your Editorial Board is not yet representative of the journal's author community, ensure you work to close that gap. Editorial Boards play a crucial role as the "face" of a journal and it is important that individuals from a diverse range of I&D attributes see themselves represented if they are to join the community. Editorial Board Members will also themselves be able to draw on their network to support the journal to expand its referee pool.
Be mindful of the limited time of under-represented groups
As journals and editors are becoming more and more aware of the need to for inclusion & diversity, individuals from minority groups may find themselves increasingly under pressure to perform service tasks e.g. peer review and Editorial Board membership, in addition to their academic work. Because academic evaluation often remains focused on publishing high-impact articles, we do not want to overburden women and individuals from marginalized groups. Try to ensure you are not always approaching the same individuals, but continue to strive to expand your referee database; valued reviewers may even be able to recommend colleagues to you.
Be transparent about your initiatives and raise awareness
Finally, take the lead in communicating the importance of I&D to your journal community. Keep your journal community up-to-date with the actions you are taking to promote I&D and any progress made. Celebrate your achievements, but also share honestly and transparently. With this in mind, where you have set targets, you should consider sharing these, along with progress, to keep the journal accountable. Building on Elsevier’s statement in support of equality, inclusion & diversity(opens in new tab/window), your publishing contact will be glad to work with you to craft an additional I&D statement for your own title. Not only will such a statement ensure your journal community is briefed, but you will also be playing your part to raise awareness of the issue and drive the I&D conversation forward more broadly.
We hope these latest articles have provided you as editors with best practice to promote inclusion & diversity in peer review on your journal. Our closing message is that there are qualified reviewer candidates beyond journals’ existing networks, and you can play an integral role in helping to bridge the gap in reviewer diversity.
We also hope you have enjoyed this series in honor of Peer Review Week 2021.